The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad

By Alexander Rocklin | Go to book overview

1 Crossing the Dark Water

It is hardly possible to conceive how … an artificial system of
indenture, with the laws that defined and regulated it, had succeeded
in moulding out of a manly, tender, generous and loving character,
a hard, unnatural and ferocious savage.

—Edward Jenkins, Lutchmee and Dilloo


A System of Indenture

Indians first arrived in Trinidad in 1845, on board the ship Fatel Razack. Over the course of the island’s indenture scheme, from 1845 to 1917, around 144,000 Indians came as laborers, with most signing on for five-year work contracts and many deciding to stay. Benedict Anderson points out that, under the British Raj, Indian members of the colonial bureaucracy were severely restricted in their vertical and horizontal movements within the imperial system. However, nonbureaucratic labor, particularly poor agricultural workers, moved (and were moved) freely within and outside of the British Empire to meet perceived labor needs.1 As Madhavi Kale writes: “The imperial labor reallocation strategy characteristically and contradictorily made good the promise of imperial liberalism to release people from the fixities of place, custom, and birth into mobility and the opportunity to rise above their ‘traditional’ station.”2 Within the global movements of people, material and cultural resources, and colonial knowledges traveling across and beyond the empire, the indenture scheme helped to spread Indians around the world, to the British, French, and Dutch Caribbean colonies, Fiji, and South and East Africa. As the empire made laborers available to work, they were opened up to exploitation and opportunity, with either possibility (often both simultaneously) necessitating dramatic changes in self and social formation. As a result, Indians participated in large-scale cultural reimaginings in new contexts facilitated through their incorporation of colonial ways of knowing and modes of life, including those framed by the categories of religion and race.

Chattel slavery ended in the British Empire in 1834. The former slaves were meant to be transitioned to emancipation through a period

-19-

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The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Crossing the Dark Water 19
  • Part I - Religion 35
  • 2 - Converting Religion 37
  • 3 - Regulating Religion 73
  • 4 - Outlawing Religion 110
  • Part II - Hinduism 149
  • 5 - Standardizing Sanatana Dharma 151
  • 6 - Making World Religions 192
  • Postscript 231
  • Notes 239
  • Bibliography 271
  • Index 291
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